Multipurpose wall sockets

Switches and Sockets


Switches and sockets need to be visible and accessible as this can help or hinder users’ ability to interact with their environment. Switch and sockets include components that operate electrical equipment and lighting. Ensuring staff, patients and visitors have control of the lighting in their immediate vicinity is key to their satisfaction and comfort.

Ideally, the information in this section should be read in conjunction with that contained within the Walls and Lighting components.

Place switches and sockets in areas where they are most likely to be used, where they can be easily accessed and where a user expects to find them. Locate power sockets close to where electrical equipment is likely to be used. Locate light and other equipment switches where they can be easily seen and reached.

Recommended standards:

  • Provide low-level sockets in key locations such as in corridors for cleaning equipment.
  • Locate switches and socket outlets in habitable rooms above the floor within the range of 450mm to 1200mm. The height will depend on how the space is used and the location of furniture. Frequently used sockets should be located in the upper range. Lower sockets may be preferred to avoid trailing cables but be mindful of access.
  • BS8300 recommends locating sockets above 1000mm. Where possible adhere to this guidance.
  • In public spaces consider providing charging stations for people to charge phones and other personal equipment. Seating and other furniture can be provided with in-built USB outlets.
  • Position light switches used by the public horizontally in line with door handles in the range of 900mm to 1100mm above the floor.
  • Review office desks to determine optimum location for power and data outlets for easy access, either above or lower level with good cable management to avoid cables trailing across the work surface.
  • Install shaver sockets in sanitary spaces next to the washbasin and mirror.

Consider how easy switches and sockets are to operate and use. Automatic movement-detected lighting should be considered in appropriate areas to make control simpler for all users and to provide an energy-efficient solution. Additional supporting information British Standards 8300-2: Design of an accessible inclusive build environment.

Recommended standards:

  • Light switches that are activated by large push pads are more convenient for a wide range of building users.
  • Use text or pictograms so the purpose and status of multiple switches and controls is easily recognised and understood.

Visual contrast between surfaces and features in a building is important to enable people with visual difficulties to assess and navigate safely around an environment and to identify features and potential obstacles.

Recommended standards:

  • Use contrasting colours to highlight switches and sockets against the surrounding wall finish. A difference in Light Reflectance Values (LRV) of 30 points is considered a sufficient contrast.
  • Consider the patient profile of an area. To safeguard children or those with cognitive challenges, low colour contrast may be the optimum solution. Socket covers may also be helpful, although the latest guidance on the safe use of covers must be checked first.

All building components should be safe and minimise the opportunity for self-harm especially where mental health services are provided. This may include providing anti-ligature items, including switches and sockets that minimise the opportunity for self-harm. This should be agreed on a project-by-project basis and will depend on the type of service provided. Specialist advice should always be sought for specialist health settings.

Recommended standards:

  • Pull cord emergency call systems should be provided in wheelchair-accessible WCs in accordance with the Building Regulations.
  • Cords should be avoided in mental health units for reasons of potential harm. Use push button as an alternative.
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